Zuppa di Fagioli e Biete

Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

Preparation info

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Appears in

Marcella's Italian Kitchen

Marcella's Italian Kitchen

By Marcella Hazan

Published 1986

  • About

This is one of those masterful bean soups that are the glory of Central Italian cooking. From the point of view of technique, there are no intricate secrets to its success. The battuto of garlic and olive oil is enhanced by anchovies and rosemary. The remaining ingredients follow in the simple sequence described in the recipe. If you are making the soup in advance, do not put in the pasta to cook until you are ready to reheat the soup, or it will become soft and gluey.


  • ½ pound Swiss chard
  • Salt
  • 2 flat anchovy fillets
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, or a 2- to 3-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup dried white kidney beans, soaked and cooked as directed, or 2 cups canned cannellini, drained
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • ½ cup short, tubular pasta, about ½ inch long or less
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)


  1. Trim the ends of the Swiss chard stalks and discard any bruised or discolored leaves. Wash them, changing the water several times until it shows no trace of sand.
  2. Put the chard in a pot with very little water and at least 1 teaspoon salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat until tender. Drain the chard over a bowl, reserving all its cooking liquid. Chop the cooked chard coarse.
  3. Chop the anchovy fillets very fine together with the rosemary. If using fresh rosemary, do not chop it.
  4. Put the olive oil and garlic in a soup pot and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. When the garlic becomes colored a pale gold, add the anchovies and rosemary. Stir for a few seconds, then remove and discard the garlic. If using fresh rosemary, discard the rosemary sprig.
  5. Put the chard in the pot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to coat well with oil.
  6. Add the cooked beans or the drained canned cannellini and a liberal amount of salt and grindings of pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring well.
  7. Add the reserved cooking liquid from the chard and, if necessary, additional water, until the liquid comes up 3 inches from the top of the soup pot. When the liquid comes to a boil, put in the pasta and cook until it is done al dente. Taste, correcting for salt and pepper.
  8. Turn off the heat and mix in the grated cheese. Spoon into individual plates or bowls. Wait a few minutes, allowing the heat of the soup to abate slightly, then serve with a few drops of raw olive oil trickled on top.